Miserden: Economic history

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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'Miserden: Economic history', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds, (London, 1976) pp. 52-53. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol11/pp52-53 [accessed 13 April 2024]


Of the twelve ploughs at Miserden in 1086 three were used on the demesne, which extended to one hide and had ten servi. (fn. 1) In 1289 there were 132 a. of arable on the demesne, excluding that held in dower, but the amount of arable had decreased to 96 a. by 1331. (fn. 2) This was probably due to conversion of arable to pasture, which amounted to 60 a. in 1331. (fn. 3) Some of the demesne land of Miserden presumably passed to Wishanger by grant. (fn. 4) In 1338 two plough-lands at Wishanger were let at farm by the preceptory of Quenington, (fn. 5) and in 1535 the rental of the demesne farm at Wishanger accounted for 24 per cent of the manorial profits. (fn. 6)

There were 8 villani, 5 bordars, and one radknight sharing the 9 ploughs worked by the tenants of Miserden in 1086 (fn. 7) but in 1220 only 6 plough-lands were assessed. (fn. 8) There were 8 free tenants, 11 customary tenants, and 7 cottagers on the manor in 1331; 8 of the customary tenants held ½ yardlands and 3 held fardels. Four of the ½-yardlanders no longer provided works in 1331 (fn. 9) which presumably accounted for the decrease in the value of works since 1272 when the customary tenants had to provide 50 works during the summer, 150 at harvest time, and 8 harrowings in the year. (fn. 10) Copyhold tenure was noted on the manor in the 17th century (fn. 11) but the history of post-medieval tenures on the manor cannot be traced in detail. There were four free tenants at Wishanger in 1541 paying 28s. 4d. in rents and three customary tenants paying 47s. 3d. (fn. 12) In 1824 only one small parcel of land in the parish was still held by copy. (fn. 13)

In the 17th century there were at least three open fields in the parish, West field (also known as North field), East field (also known as South field), and Wishangerfield. (fn. 14) In 1824 West field amounted to 120 a. and covered much of the area west of the Gloucester road between the Wishanger road and Lypiatt Gate. South field, amounting to 93 a. in 1824, was south of the village and park; to the south-east of the field was a detached piece of open field called Goldwell Corner (8½ a.) and to the north-west another piece called Lyes Corner (15 a.). Wishanger field, in the north-east corner of the parish, contained 43 a. in 1824 and had four parcels of contiguous open-field land stretching from its south-east corner and totalling 40 a.; they were named Bidwell, the Butts, the Downs, and the Plain of Downs. (fn. 15) The open fields extended to c. 300 a. in the later 18th century, (fn. 16) and in 1824 328 a. of open-field land were inclosed by Act of Parliament. (fn. 17) Earlier surveys of the glebe and the shape of Wishanger field in 1824 both suggest that piecemeal inclosure had taken place by then. (fn. 18) Only seven landowners received allotments: the largest, amounting to 106 a., went to Daniel Mills of Sudgrove, Sir Edwin Bayntun Sandys received 84 a., four others received 25–50 a., and one received 1½ a. (fn. 19)

There were 8 a. of meadow in 1086 (fn. 20) and 6½ a. in demesne in 1289, (fn. 21) but in 1331 only 1 a. of meadow was recorded. (fn. 22) A change from arable to pasture is indicated during the 14th century (fn. 23) but by the early 18th century the parish was described as mostly arable. (fn. 24) The low acreage of arable recorded in 1801 ignored the land lying fallow; cereal crops predominated but there were 100 a. of turnips and small acreages of peas, beans, and potatoes. (fn. 25) In 1838 the arable land comprised almost half the land in the parish and remained in that proportion in 1970. (fn. 26)

In 1838 there were 370 a. of woodland, held in two lots, and fourteen farms in the parish, two of which had substantial holdings of woodland; William Blackwell farmed 233 a. in the north-east of the parish, of which 145 a. were woodland, and the home farm of Miserden manor had 54 a. of woodland. Of the remaining twelve farms six were over 140 a., four were 40–100 a., and two were c. 30 a. Arable land predominated on all farms except one of the smallest, at the Dillay on Down hill, which was almost totally pasture. Wishanger farm, the largest with 308 a., reflected the usual pattern with between two and three times more arable than pasture but Henley farm (189 a.), Down farm (162 a.), the glebe farm (77 a.), and Wateredge farm (50 a.) had less than 1/5 pasture. (fn. 27) In 1939 there were five farms of over 150 a. in the parish (fn. 28) but many of the farms were incorporated into the Miserden Park estate between 1945 and 1970. At the latter date the estate covered much of Miserden and Winstone parishes, amounting to c. 2,500 a., 3/5 of which was used for arable farming, 1/5 dairy farming, and 1/5 cattle and sheep raising. (fn. 29) The Cotswold Game farm established headquarters at Miserden in 1923 just north of the Camp, (fn. 30) and the specialist aspects of 20th-century farming were also represented in 1970 by the Cotswold Pig Development Co. (fn. 31)

A water-mill recorded on Miserden manor from 1273 (fn. 32) was evidently that which stood on the river Frome south of the castle site. (fn. 33) It was described in 1832 as a corn- and flock-mill (fn. 34) and ceased working in the late 19th century. (fn. 35) In 1970 the mill-pond could still be seen but the mill was in a ruinous state. In 1678 the Warneford family held a watermill at Sudgrove (fn. 36) but no other reference to it has been found.

The mill south of Snow's Farm in the west part of the parish (fn. 37) was probably that which Elizabeth Rogers of Arlingham owned in 1780. (fn. 38) It was acquired by the Townsend family, possibly in 1792 when it was described as a corn-mill, (fn. 39) and they granted it on lease with Snow's Farm in 1860. (fn. 40) It was worked as part of a baker's shop in the late 19th century (fn. 41) but by 1970 all the buildings had disappeared, the site being marked by the depression of the mill-pond and some worked stones.

At the western tip of the Down hill promontory stands Upper Steanbridge Mill, (fn. 42) also known as the Jenny Mill. (fn. 43) The mill, a 17th- or early 18thcentury building, was evidently being worked by John Pegler, clothier, in 1763 and 1767 and by James Woodfield in 1774, (fn. 44) and it was bought by Theyer Townsend from Pegler's executors in 1781; it was then a fulling-mill with 2 stocks and a gig. (fn. 45) By 1838 the mill was owned by Nathaniel Samuel Marling and worked by William Lay. (fn. 46) It was converted to a farm-house before 1882, (fn. 47) and was occupied as such in 1970. It is a T-shaped stone building with a hipped stone-slated roof and mullioned windows with dripmoulds.

Some inhabitants of the parish were employed in the local cloth industry from 1608 when there were two weavers; (fn. 48) a dyer was recorded in 1614. (fn. 49) In the later 18th century there were two resident clothiers and the cloth industry provided much work for the women and children in the parish. (fn. 50) The extent of the outdoor work done by the villagers is indicated by the employment figures for 1801 and 1811. In 1801 131 people were engaged in trade or industry, but in 1811, when employment was recorded on a family basis, only 14 families depended on trade and industry for their main income. (fn. 51) The decline in outdoor cloth-working in the 19th century meant that it could not supplement the agricultural wages and was one of the chief reasons for a decline in the population. The other main reason was the decline of the pottery at Cranham, the only other important non-agricultural employer of labour in Miserden. (fn. 52)

In 1466 a lime-kiln and a quarry were being worked at Miserden (fn. 53) and the sites of a number of small quarries were discernible in 1970. There were three masons and two tilers in 1608, (fn. 54) and the high quality of the stone tiles made locally (fn. 55) ensured that the building industry was represented among the inhabitants at all times (fn. 56) although transport difficulties limited its extent. (fn. 57) There was a smith recorded in the parish in 1608 (fn. 58) and a forge in 1672. (fn. 59) In 1874 there were two sites described as blacksmiths' shops (fn. 60) and a smith continued to work there until 1939, although by that time he was supplementing his farriery with the manufacture of wicket-gates from horse-shoes, examples of which can be seen locally. (fn. 61) There was also a collar-maker at Miserden in the late 18th century (fn. 62) and a wheelwright in 1856. (fn. 63) In the later 18th century timber from the manor estate was converted to gun-stocks for sale at Birmingham (fn. 64) and a resident of Miserden was described as a timber-merchant in 1800. (fn. 65) In 1863 there was a charcoal-burner working in the parish. (fn. 66) There was a carpenter from 1885 and a cabinetmaker in 1939. There were at least two shops in the village in the later 19th century and two remained in 1970; a butcher and a baker had premises in Miserden at various times between 1889 and 1923. (fn. 67)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 169v.
  • 2. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236–1300, 150; 1302–58, 230.
  • 3. Ibid. 1302–58, 230.
  • 4. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 836.
  • 5. Hospitallers in Eng., ed. L. B. Larking (Camd. Soc. 1st Ser. lxv), 28.
  • 6. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 462.
  • 7. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 169v.
  • 8. Bk. of Fees, i. 308.
  • 9. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1302–58, 230.
  • 10. Ibid. 1236–1300, 63.
  • 11. Glos. R.O., D 127/178.
  • 12. S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/7262.
  • 13. Glos. R.O., Q/RI 102.
  • 14. G.D.R., V 5/207T 1, 5.
  • 15. Glos. R.O., Q/RI 102.
  • 16. Rudder, Glos. 553.
  • 17. Glos. R.O., Q/RI 102.
  • 18. G.D.R., V 5/207T 1, 5; Glos. R.O., Q/RI 102.
  • 19. Glos. R.O., Q/RI 102.
  • 20. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 169v.
  • 21. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236–1300, 150.
  • 22. Ibid. 1302–58, 230.
  • 23. See above.
  • 24. Atkyns, Glos. 562; Bodl. MS. Rawl. B. 323, f. 202v.
  • 25. Acreage Returns, 1801.
  • 26. G.D.R., T 1/122; cf. Acreage Returns, 1901.
  • 27. G.D.R., T 1/122.
  • 28. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1939), 264: one farm listed was not in the ancient parish.
  • 29. Ex inf. W/Cdr. Sinclair.
  • 30. Ex inf. Mr. P. R. Symonds, of Cotswold Game Farm.
  • 31. Ex inf. W/Cdr. Sinclair.
  • 32. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236–1300, 63; 1302–58, 230; C.P. 25(2)/299/18 Jas. I Mich. no. 36.
  • 33. Bryant, Map of Glos. (1824); the site is at O.S. Nat. Grid 944088.
  • 34. Glos. R.O., D 1388/SL 3, no. 38.
  • 35. Ex inf. W/Cdr. Sinclair.
  • 36. C.P. 25(2)/659/30 Chas. II Mich. no. 16.
  • 37. Bryant, Map of Glos. (1824); at O.S. Nat. Grid 886079.
  • 38. Glos. R.O., D 18/298.
  • 39. Ibid. D 1815, Townsend fam., partics. of property.
  • 40. Ibid. lease 1860.
  • 41. Local information.
  • 42. Bryant, Map. of Glos. (1824); at O.S. Nat. Grid 879079.
  • 43. Tann, Glos. Woollen Mills, 215.
  • 44. Glouc. Jnl. 31 Jan. 1763; 9 Mar. 1767; 7 Feb. 1774.
  • 45. Glos. R.O., D 2056/7.
  • 46. G.D.R., T 1/122.
  • 47. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. XLII. 9 (1884 edn.).
  • 48. Smith, Men and Armour, 296.
  • 49. G.D.R. wills 1614/212.
  • 50. Rudder, Glos. 553.
  • 51. Census, 1801, 1811.
  • 52. Ibid. 1871.
  • 53. S.C. 6/850/31.
  • 54. Smith, Men and Armour, 296.
  • 55. Rudge, Agric. of Glos. 24.
  • 56. Glos. R.O., D 1042, Miserden ct. papers 1790–1823; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 57. Rudder, Glos. 553.
  • 58. Smith, Men and Armour, 296.
  • 59. E 179/247/14 rot. 8.
  • 60. Glos. R.O., D 1388/SL 5, no. 91.
  • 61. Stroud News, 3 Sept. 1939.
  • 62. G.D.R. wills 1794/97.
  • 63. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856), 329.
  • 64. Rudder, Glos. 553.
  • 65. Glos. R.O., D 1157, Clutterbuck fam., deed 1800.
  • 66. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1863), 312.
  • 67. Ibid. (1856 and later edns.).